‘The Handmaid’s Story’ Hits Onerous in Covid-Period America

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'The Handmaid's Tale' Hits Hard in Covid-Era America


The Monitor is a weekly column dedicated to every thing occurring within the WIRED world of tradition, from films to memes, TV to Twitter.

The Handmaid’s Story’s present is prescience. From Margaret Atwood’s 1985 e-book being a harbinger of the conservative politics of the Reagan period, to the Hulu present’s eerie echoes of Donald Trump’s presidency, each incarnation speaks to the era that receives it.

The present season of The Handmaid’s Story, which launched Wednesday, capabilities fairly the identical. The totalitarian theocracy of Gilead nonetheless appears like an America the place the nation’s puritanical politics have run amok. Its antihero protagonist June (Elisabeth Moss) nonetheless serves as a stand-in for any lady who has seen her autonomy stripped away, and an avatar for the anger they really feel when it’s. All the parallels that existed in seasons previous between Handmaids and fashionable ladies in search of self-determination are nonetheless there. But, within the present’s fourth season, it’s the nuances—the refined grief, the misplaced moments—that hit the toughest.

The rationale for that is easy: The finale of the sequence’ earlier season aired in August 2019, roughly 4 months earlier than Covid-19 emerged, almost seven months earlier than the lockdowns within the US, and what appears like a lifetime earlier than the second we’re in now. The final season existed in a world earlier than quarantine, earlier than social distancing, earlier than a pandemic turned face masks into one thing to be fought over. Put bluntly, it occurred earlier than our present disaster. The Handmaid’s Story has at all times felt related as a result of it takes systemic points like reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ rights and provides them faces, narratives—and villains to be overthrown. Like somebody checked out patriarchy and stated “pc, improve.” However as this present season rolls out, its grit lies in the way in which folks cope.

To be clear, nothing about dwelling with a pandemic is like dwelling in a totalitarian society. Not likely. The ladies of Gilead confront torture and indignities far faraway from day-to-day life in lockdown. But, one of many underlying themes of the present has at all times been how grief and trauma change folks, push them to do issues they wouldn’t usually do. Present below fixed risk—whether or not it is from the federal government or a previously unknown virus—produces anxieties and ranges of dread that have to be endured, survived. In Covid-19 occasions, these realities have manifested in every thing from fights over getting vaccinated to going through the huge disparities during which teams are being hardest hit by the virus. Our social contracts have been by no means ultimate to start with, however they’ve been massively disrupted during the last yr. And watching Handmaid’s Story, it’s arduous to not recall how shortly communities can come collectively, or disintegrate, when confronted with adversity.

That is maybe most acutely witnessed within the lives of people that aren’t June. Throughout Season 4’s first three episodes—those that dropped this week—when the motion cuts away from Gilead, it shifts to Toronto, the place her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and finest buddy Moira (Samira Wiley) are main the efforts to rescue folks from their authoritarian neighbor to the south. Luke holds out hope that June will sooner or later be free, but additionally questions why she’s chosen to remain and battle when she might’ve escaped. Moira and Emily (Alexis Bledel), each of whom did get out of Gilead with June’s assist, battle with survivors’ guilt. They’re confronted with transferring on with their lives whereas figuring out others can’t and that the disparities between Canada and Gilead are huge. In different occasions, such moments won’t have stood out; watching them now, it is arduous to not see parallels to those that have obtained the Covid-19 vaccine and perhaps by no means had Covid. They will transfer on, however they accomplish that figuring out not everybody strikes with them.

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